After R. Shimeon had spent twelve years in a cavecontemplating the Majesty of Hashem, he went forth into the world.He was shocked and pained by what he saw:people ignoring the Majesty that had filled his dark cavewith Lightin orderto farm, weave, cook, and do all the little things that are needed to sustain the body.Wherever he looked, peoplewere neglecting the contemplation of the Eternal for the sake ofchayai sha'ah(the needs of the body in the short time we spend in this world).His eye set fire to everything it saw.
Back to the cave!Hashem commanded.Have you leftthe cave to destroy My world?
What did R. Shimeon learn during that second term in the cave?
Perhaps, after ascending to a glorious vision of Hashem’s Majesty,he had to ascend even higher to appreciate the depth of His Humility and love forthe world. And so he was sent back in to the cave where his Spirit wandered through the Mysteries of Hashem's many worlds, until he realized how important they were to Him, thoughcompared to Him, they were virtually nothing.Indeed, we could well imagine that R. Shimeon spent his many years in the cave moving through those worlds with hardly an eye for them--seeking only to know Hashem as He revealed Himself through them.
We were sent to back into the desert from the very threshold ofEretz Yisrael, the point from which we were to begin our conquest.
We had seen so many faces of Hashem's Majesty:In Egypt, at Mt. Sinai, in pillars of fire and clouds of glory. We were so filled with the vision of His Majesty that we did not realize that,in the living the presence of that Majesty, we were transformed, instilled with a dignity and spiritual power no nation ever had or ever will. We so nullified ourselves before Hashem’s Glory,that we had no awareness of the Divine Humility that moved Hashem to bestow something of that power upon us.
We were no longer slaves, soit was fitting that, when confronted by an enemy, we participate in the fighting.But Hashem knew our sense of weakness;He knew that we would be frightened by the prospect of war, so on our way out of Egypt, Hashem took us the long way just to avoida confrontation with thePelishtim. We would have fled back to Egypt!
Rashi tells us that Moshe sentspies into the landat the request of Bnei Yisrael.The Ibn Ezra points out that, in retelling thestory of the spies inSefer Devarim, Moshe adds a detail we don't see it parshas Shlach:Hashem had said,aleh reish, go forth and inherit [the land]. The people, it seems, assumed that the conquest of the land would depend largely on their prowess and military strength.And so,they sent out spies. And when the spies returned with the message that “The Canaanites are much stronger than we are, a race of giants.Look at the amazing foods they eat!”the people collapsed in fear, for they had no idea that their vision of Hashem's strength and the faith that followed Him into the desert had made them stronger, suffused them with something of the power that had defeated Egypt, and that it wouldwork through them, manifest itself from within themto assist them after the manner of hidden miracles. And so, faced with the prospect of fighting a people that seemed to possess all the powers nature could bestow, they crumbled, unaware that they had at their disposal all the powers that Hashem, the Creator of nature, could bestow.
What was their sin?Why was Hashem, who had been so indulgent of their fear of the P’lishtim, so angered by their fear of the Canaanim?Why did He send them back into the desert to wander for forty years and raise a new generation?
Because now they had the Torah.Now they were keeping the commandments,and when a Jew keeps Hashem's commandments with all his heart and all his strength, he discoverswithin himselfa strength that is greater than his own, an indwelling of a spiritual strength and source ofcourage that could only be a gift of Hashem.
What, then, was the guilt of the people?If they had served Him as they should, with all their heart and all their strength, they would know theindwelling of a spiritual strengththat would give them the confidence to face even giants, like David, whofought Goliath without fear.
In short, they lacked the trust in Hashem – thebitachon– they would have had if they had served Him as they should have, not only thebitachonthat trusts Hashem to help in matters beyond our control (they had seen Hashem do that, when He liberated them from Egypt), but also the trust that Hashem instills the inner strength required to cope with whatever trials He sets before us.
Thatbitachon, that trusts in Hashem to instillthe strength to cope with life’s trials, was harder for them, not only because they had not seen it, as theyhad witnessed Hashemsubdue Egyptwith His Majestic Power, but also because it requires a recognition of the Divine Humility that imparts something of its own glory and power into the soul of man, a power he can exercise to face the trials of this world, the difficulties that face him in managing the challenges ofchaya sha’ah.In that respect,we might compare the shortcoming of the generation that was sent back to journey in the desert to the shortcoming of R. Shimeon that required him to go back to his cave.R. Shimeon had to update his recognition of Hashem’s Humility—His lovefor the world-- to match the profoundly deepened vision of Hashem’s Majesty which he (R. Shimeon) had achieved while withdrawn from the world.The Children of Israel awaken to the empowering giftthat Hashem bestows on those who serve Him, something of His own power with which He blesses those who cling to Him,after having nullified themselves before the Divine Majestythey had witness in Egypt and at Mt. Sinai.Forty years of coping with the trials of living the desertwould do that.They would discover their new strength, and know its true Source: their devotion toHashem, watching over and present among them.